A warning for those of gentle disposition or of a tender age – please do not read on if you are easily upset by sexual references, descriptions of bodily functions or your sons erection (sorry Mum).
As mentioned on the home page, partly due to a youthful excess of physical exercise that borderlined on masochism , I have abused my body over the years to the extent that various joints are failing me. The fact that the conservatives also stole my school milk* probably didn’t help. My right hip is the second joint, after a rotator cuff that has gone to pot and I had it whipped out the day before yesterday after several months of waiting.
*A political reference that won’t resonate with anyone that didn’t go to school in the UK during the 1970’s
I managed to sidestep the long list of geriatrics at my local hospital with a clever dodge from my GP. He suggested that I could join the public waiting list and still go with my chosen private orthopaedic surgeon in a very rural and well regarded public hospital at Hamilton, built circa 1860 and located in the western farming districts of Victoria. With my adopted home town being very much a kind of ‘Gods waiting room’, the lists ran long there and Hamilton’s was much shorter. As it happened, it was an easy choice to make.
Mrs Jerry and I conducted a reconnaissance last week to make sure we knew where we were going and to have some pre op tests of the poking, prodding and bloodletting kind. I knew I was in the right place (mental note #1) when I saw a wall size photograph of HRH the Princess Margaret, the hospitals patron. Margaret had long been one of my favourite royals, largely due to her sense of humour, love of a drink and her refusal to conform.
HRH the Princess Margaret. Patron of the hospital and all round ‘good sort’
Pretty much all the staff there have a sense of humour and go about their jobs professionally and in a caring friendly manner. It should be said at this juncture, that in my opinion, there is no real difference between public and private health care in Australia, except perhaps with the availability of private rooms and wine with dinner with the latter. It’s still the same great staff and facilities. My first hint of that sense of humour was with the pre admission registrar, a very nice lady of a certain age who originally hailed from south Africa. She demanded that I ‘take off my shirt and lie on the bed’ and added “I bet that’s the best offer you’ve had all day” Mental note #2 – must come here again…
One of the pre op appointments was with the physiotherapists who were both twenty something nurses. They blushed and stumbled their way through the description of having to teach me how to shower and dress safely, which caused Mrs Jerry to roll her eyes and tease me with ‘which one would do you think it would be, or would they both do it at once’? Mental note #3 I’m in the right place!
On the day of the race, I checked in en famille and of course, I had to dress for the occasion. I was given a fetching backless gown in “a lovely blue, that brings out your eyes dear” and a pair of disposable pants, that reminded me of a hair net; “bet you’ll be wanting to take a pair of those home dear” the 60 years young admissions nurse giggled. I don’t think that they get many ‘young and otherwise healthy’ 52 year olds in for hip replacements, so I was apparently a bit of a rarity. I was given my premeds with a ‘bottoms up’ and I settled back to enjoy the ride. The kids were obviously waiting for some kind of spectacular reaction, but I think they were fairly disappointed with my refusal to perform some humiliating ‘dabbing’ dance moves on camera.
The next part of my halloween outfit was a very fetching pair of tubigrip stockings, which unaccountably reminded me of Margot Robbie’s character in the Marvel comics; Harley Quinn. And yes, I know now that she wore fishnets, but some 30 minutes after the premeds, my mind wasn’t working in an appropriate way. That thought (and a few others) stayed with me and that coupled with the heightened stress of the situation caused a totally inappropriate and wholly irrepressible erection.
Strangely enough, I don’t think that I had expressed more than a passing appreciation of Ms Quinn’s slutty, yet arresting appearance during the ‘Suicide squad’ movie, but apparently ‘something’ about her character had stuck in my mind. The bastard thing wouldn’t go down even with the old standby of inwardly chanting “Margaret Thatcher naked, Margaret Thatcher naked…” over and over again and it was there for the duration. As I was wheeled in, the theatre nurse glanced down, smiled and commented, “we don’t see a lot of those here” Mental note #4 – this is NOT the right place for one of those.
I did slip under and away from the embarrassment when the spinal anaesthetic was put in and according to the jolly anaesthetist when I came round, I had managed to blurt out the multi use ‘F” verb/noun/exclamation several times as the needle slipped in and before the inappropriate thoughts had totally left me.
Unfortunately during my recovery nap, I had suffered from a malfunction which is apparently common to patients who have had a spinal anaesthetic and I had copiously wet my bed. Mortified with embarrassment and as the very understanding nurses changed my sheets and wriggled me into my dry PJ’s, I did it again, this time in full view. Mental note #5, for the next hip, request adult diaper to be installed immediately after the op…
After the very public bed wetting incident, I realised that I shared the observation ward with two older ladies, both of whom had gone under the knife with the same surgeon, for the same op just before me. They were fairly sanguine about bladder woes, having had several children and ‘incidents’ themselves. When I was cleaned up, but still feeling fairly woozy, my family kindly brought in chocolate digestive biscuits, wine gums and jubes; all my undisputed favourites and I tucked in with relish, but later that evening, my ward mates managed to top that with deliveries of freshly baked cakes and even a pizza.
Thanks to the shared ward, I now know all about their grandchildren, how lovely living in the same country town you were born in is and that in Hamilton, they are all royalists really. I drew the line at discussing Princess Katherine’s alleged third pregnancy as reported in womans day (so it must be true) and I can fully attest there is something to be said for having your knowledge of the internal politics of the Victorian Country Womens Association broadened. I also know I couldn’t have been looked after any better.
In the morning, we were all moved to the other end of the corridor, where the ladies would have other like minded people to talk to and I was wheeled into a private room, probably due to my excessive snoring. In spite of the epidural and its gradually waning effects, I was able to carry out my most immediate of ablutions without impediment and the bedside bottle soon had to be changed several times. There was a ‘near miss’ situation when I attempted to foolishly help the nurse to change bottles and nearly dropped the thing and I resolved to leave that sort of thing to the experts going forward.
Early afternoon, with the assistance (or perhaps encouragement) of my painkillers, I had an attack of the munchies and armed with my new crutches, I decided to head downstairs to the coffee shop on the ground floor of the hospital. Disappointingly, it was closed, but having set my self the goal, I decided to find a local cafe. Hamilton is a lovely town, it has a lake, numerous nice houses and several interesting shops. I know this because I window shopped through the streets for a happy couple of Oxycontin numbed hours. I found a decent looking cafe and threw whatever remaining caution I had left to the wind and decided to have a glass of the local shiraz and a muffin. The kindly staff didn’t bat an eyelid at my slightly dishevelled appearance, the hospital ID band on my wrist, nor even at the cannula still taped to the back of my hand. Oh and I may, or may not have still have had my pyjamas on, I can’t quite recall…
I returned to the ward and a sensed a buzz of excitement. Apparently, there had been a new hospital record set with regards to post operative activity and with only 24 hours between the operating table and Tosca’s coffee shop, I had created a bit of a stir. By that stage I had googled ‘Oxycontin and alcohol’ and decided that I probably shouldn’t admit to the shiraz and instead mumbled an appreciation of their Bolivian roast. Impressively, no one took me to task for my excursion and working on the premise that it is better to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission, I decided to brazen it out and congratulated the physios for their excellent work, that had enabled me to be back on my feet so quickly. As an aside, my step counter showed 2.5km but I also decided to keep that one quiet.
After having been kindly, but firmly confined to bed, I checked out the range of new mobility aids that I had been issued. The first, a brand new Zimmer frame (pictured) was discarded with the knowledge that I had already graduated to crutches and in any case, a picture of me driving one on social media would be disastrous.
No, you can’t get a picture of me using it!
The second item however looked like it had scope for masses of fun. It was known as a ‘gripper’ and you can’t of course bend over when you have had your hip replaced and so if you drop anything, without a flunky following you around and picking up after you, you’d be stuffed.
The “gripper” being used to avoid a ‘Douglas Bader’ moment and confirm the actual presence of my feet.
The next morning, when the hospital had finally had enough of me, I was approved for release and I spent the rest of the impatiently packing and hobbling through the corridors. Luckily, my chocolate digestives lasted out the afternoon and after thanking all of the staff I could find, I was driven home to what could turn out be the most trying phase of recovery, the rehabilitation. Trying for my family, that is…
In closing, I should disclose that I broke the first gripper trying to remove ‘Margot’s’ stockings, despite apparently having been told not to try and get them off myself. I have now been issued with a replacement and I am currently trying to see if they are sensitive enough to lift a fine stemmed glass.